Dolly Parton recalls being ‘scolded and whipped’ by grandfather over how she dressed

Dolly Parton performs on the Pyramid stage on Day 3 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 29, 2014 in Glastonbury, England.

Aside from iconic country music ballads, the first thing you think of when you hear the name ‘Dolly Parton’ is undoubtedly her iconic look.

The high stiletto heels, the perfectly manicured claws, the big blonde hair, and the tight, flamboyant, sequin or rhinestone-encrusted outfits are all essential to Dolly’s perfectly-curated image.

But the music legend endured some hardships to achieve the look she is now proudly known for – especially in her early years.

Dolly Parton
Dolly achieved her iconic look by staying true to herself. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

In a new interview with The Guardian, the “Jolene” singer revealed that she was physically punished by her preacher grandfather for the way she dressed.

But despite being scolded and whipped, she persevered and kept styling herself like, as she puts it, the “town tramp”, determined to stay true to herself.

“I was willing to pay for it,” Dolly Parton said of her unique look.

You may like to watch

“I’m very sensitive, I didn’t like being disciplined – it hurt my feelings so bad to be scolded or whipped or whatever. But sometimes there’s just that part of you that’s willing, if you want something bad enough, to go for it.”

Dolly Parton at the 37th Annual Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony
The “Jolene” singer revealed that she was physically punished by her preacher grandfather for the way she dressed. (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The country music star explained that, although her “town tramp” look wasn’t taken that seriously in her early days, the inspiration behind it “came from a very serious place.”

“That’s how I thought I looked best”, she said. 

“Sometimes that’s worked for me, sometimes it can work against you. It took me probably years longer to be taken serious, but I wasn’t willing to change it, and I figured if I had the talent, it’d show up sooner or later.”

Parton explained that, after growing up in Tennessee and seeing the women who were worn down by child-bearing and rearing, she decided she didn’t want that life for herself.

“My mom and my aunts – I grew up with women knowing how to be good mothers, but that was just not what I felt God had in mind for me. Because somebody’s got to entertain those people, to write songs about them. 

“I can write a song as if I had a house full of kids, I can write a song as if I’ve got a cheating husband, even though I never did. But I know what it’s like; I’ve seen it, been around it. There’s nothing in this world that’s foreign to me, that I don’t get or understand.”

Dolly Parton
Parton modelled her look after the “town tramp”. (John Lamparski/Getty)

Parton said that, when she saw women who walked around town in high heels, low-cut tops, and bright red lipstick, without a care in the world, she would hear people comment: “She ain’t nothing but trash”, and would always reply: “Well, that’s what I’m gonna be when I grow up.”

Whether people liked her look or not was never something that Parton concerned herself with. The “I Will Always Love You” singer shared that she was more interested in being true to herself.

“That was what my mama always used to say: to thine own self be true. I put a lot of stock in that. 

“Everything I do, whether it’s my personality, how I conduct myself and business, or whatever, if I do it my way, according to what I understand and believe, there’s a strength in that.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.